The Boys’ second season is just good as the first season, if not better. As it draws to a close this Friday, October 9, with all the intriguing developments, it assumes its rightful place as one of the most exciting superhero series ever released. That being said, one question we all have now that it’s coming to a close is how much it’s diverted from the comics off of which it’s based.
Comic fans who haven’t seen the show or are just getting into it have plenty to fear when getting involved in a new superhero series. Admittedly, live-action superhero films and TV shows are at their worst vapid, with only Michael Bay-style special effects to their credit. At its best, though, the superhero genre can provide serious social commentary that commands the attention of the most discerning eye in popular culture; undoubtedly, the most deftly-wrought stories meld adventure and profound lessons to challenge our perceptions.
But what changes and adaptations has the show made from the comics to make it relevant to TV, a decade after the comics were originally published? We brought just some of the most poignant alterations and collected them here, in no particular order — don’t worry, we made sure to keep spoilers to a minimum.
Transoceanic flight 37
In the show, the Seven tell the world that terrorists hijacked Transoceanic flight 37 and killed all passengers by crashing it into the water, all because the superheroes failed to be alerted in time…or at least that’s how it seems. Homelander uses the tragedy to convince the public to agree to contracting Vought superheroes to the military to fight terrorists. In the comics, however, the Seven try to thwart the 9/11 attacks. Although they board a plane and kill the terrorists, they still mess up the operation and crash the plane into the Brooklyn Bridge. The catastrophe is one of Vought’s most closely guarded secrets.
Probably the most significant difference that defines the balance of power between the supes and the Boys in the comics and the show is how the Boys consume Compound V. This way, they’re given a fighting chance when faced with the superheroes in the comics. In the show, however, Homelander admits that administering Compound V in adulthood can be “very messy.” Without getting into too many spoilers, let’s just say this drives the plot greatly in season two.
Hughie Campbell’s wish for vengeance
There are several points about Hughie that should be mentioned in the show that changes for the better from the comics, such as his obsession with avenging Robin, his girlfriend, which is more believable. In the comics, he’s far more obsessed with joining the Boys and their mission of taking down the supes than getting retribution for his deceased girlfriend.
Hughie is American – played by Jack Quaid
The most immediately obvious difference in Hughie Campbell is he’s not Scottish like the comics. Instead, he’s American. You could view this as the TV production capitulating to Hollywood norms for the protagonist to be American, particularly when he appears alongside a cast of otherwise foreign-born counterparts. And doesn’t that just further the satire when they’re spot on?
A Simon Pegg lookalike
Another instantly obvious point about Hughie, played by Jack Quaid, is that he does not, as the comics make him out, look at all like English actor Simon Pegg! In The Boys comics, as created by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson, Hughie was actually modeled after Pegg. As a nod to the comics, if you remember, Pegg was cast in Season One as Hughie’s father, Hugh Campbell Sr. Sadly, he doesn’t appear to have joined in for season two.
Kimiko – played by Karen Fukuhara
Kimiko, played by Karen Fukuhara, is not named at all in the comics, where she goes only by the name “The Female of the Species.” We need not go into too much detail, but in the show Kimiko’s character development is far more prominent. In the comics, little about her is known except for her penchant for killing and inability to speak.
The Deep – played by Chase Crawford
The Deep (Chase Crawford) looks totally different than in the comics, and not just because Crawford is white. In the comics, not only is he black, but he is a truly colossal member of the Seven. Some might find issues with the comparatively teeny and white Crawford’s Deep having more than a handful of lines and a serious character development in the second season – but isn’t this just what makes the show such a fantastic satire? Additionally, in the show he’s much more realistic, breathing with gills in the water, while in the comics he wears a vintage diving helmet he can’t remove because of an Atlantean curse.
A-Train – played by Jesse Usher
Just like the Deep, A-Train (Jesse Usher) is another character with a race switch between the comics and the show. If anything, it seems to just deepen the satire to cast the fastest superhero in the world as black, just as making the semi-amphibious, swimming superhero white. Furthermore, race was not really addressed until the second season, meaning the two superheroes spent a whole first season without granting the issue too much importance.
Madelyn/James Stillwell – played by Elisabeth Shue
In the comics, Vought is run by a mysterious figure we find out later is called James Stillwell. He’s far more enigmatic and appears only in the shadows. His counterpart on the show is Madelyn Stillwell, played by Elisabeth Shue, whose story is far more fleshed out. She even has a relationship with Homelander, which plays a part in season two even if she doesn’t.
Terror the bulldog – played by Karl Urban
Everyone loves a furry friend, and it’s a shame that the TV show didn’t find it fitting to add Terror, Billy Butcher’s bulldog, to the fray. The show’s Butcher, played by Karl Urban, is otherwise pretty much the same as the comics Butcher. But as the plot differs from the show, characters surrounding him are at times greatly altered, which significantly alters his story arc.
Butcher’s wife – played by Shantel VanSanten
Butcher’s wife is Becca, played by Shantel VanSanten, who is a big part of the story development in the show. She was raped by Homelander and gave birth to a superhuman child, which drives Butcher’s story arc and explains why he so hates the Seven. In the comics, however, Becca actually dies while giving childbirth. Quite disturbingly, it is Butcher himself who eliminates the child in the comics. In the show, she and the child survive, which greatly drives the plot in season two.
Queen Maeve – played by Dominique McElligot
In the show, it’s so easy to relate to Maeve, as the complexities in dealing with and surviving as one of the Seven for her unfold in front of our eyes. Played by Dominique McElligot, her conflict involves her own sexuality getting outed in the second season. In the comics, on the other hand, she is always shown drinking martinis and comes complete with a flunkey who appears to only be there to bring her more drinks.
Starlight – played by Erin Moriarty
Starlight, Annie January’s superhero identity, has a very similar role in both comics and show, but it should be noted that in the comics she isn’t just admitted into the Seven. Seeing her on paper working to become one of the elite supes in the Vought organization offers an important look that fleshes out the story. But it’s understandable why they put her on the fast-track for the show. Although this is more telling about the other characters than her own, it’s worth noting that in the comics it’s not only Deep who abuses her, but also Homelander, A-Train and Black Noir.
Stormfront – played by Aya Cash
Just like in the comics, the show’s Stormfront is a massive Nazi, but other than that the storylines are quite different. Between the comics and the show we have another significant swap: this time gender instead of race. She enters as a mysterious character, played by Aya Cash, and discovering her identity is critical in developing the story. After infuriating Homelander, she becomes his romantic interest. She’s doubtlessly one of the most fascinating characters introduced in season two, and we’ll need to see where the show will take her.
Homelander – played by Antony Starr
The character is the archnemesis in both the show and comics, but the show really makes him out to be a more complicated character, thanks to Antony Starr’s brilliant acting. The comics makes him an oversized child with far too much power for his own good, while the TV show delves far further into his inner psyche to explain his motives and actions. He’s got a bizarre Oedipus complex in the show and, although still hateful, is a far more human character than what you get in the comics. Kudos for Eric Kripke, who developed the TV show!
Although it takes itself less seriously, The Boys ironically takes on a greater number of serious issues than are tackled in Watchmen — by far. In a New Yorker article, Erin Moriarty (Starlight) made reference to this generality in capturing the spirit of the age, which contrasts by placing importance on a single issue. “What we’re mainly satirizing is the zeitgeist,” she said.
The Boys might not be an Emmy-nominated heavyweight like Watchman, but just because it doesn’t deal with racism directly like the TV adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel masterpiece doesn’t make The Boys any less relevant to the modern age, nor deaf to its issues. So far, season two has critiqued social media role models, prodigy children losing their childhood, self-image (even among men) and much more. There really is something in The Boys for everyone.